Chicago’s Ronnie Kroell from Bravo’s Make Me a Supermodel is “dropping labels for equality” and will bare all as the cover model for the June issue of Playgirl.
Ronnie talks to ChicagoPride.com about moving from Chicago to New York City as he follows “the dream.” The 27-year-old model also tells CP why he decided to drop his labels and talks about his ongoing philanthropic ventures, modeling career and return “home” for Chicago Pride in June.
CP: Since competing on Make Me a Supermodel, you moved from Chicago to New York City. How has life in the Big Apple been for you?
RK: Life in the Big Apple is amazing! I am so thankful for the incredible opportunities New York City has offered me after my time on the show. I have a strong circle of friends and continue to work hard and follow my dreams.
CP: Lately you’ve participated in a number of high profile events like Fashion Week in New York and the GLAAD Media Awards. Tell us about your participating in those events.
RK: Words cannot describe Fashion Week NYC, you just have to experience it really. It is the biggest adrenaline rush that happens twice a year!
Participating in the GLAAD Media Awards this year was such an honor. The work that award recipients Cynthia Nixon and Joy Behar are doing in the community to bridge diversity and to encourage viewers to embrace our differences is extraordinary. It takes a great deal of chutzpah, as my Skokie Illinois friends would say, to stand up and share your opinions in the face of adversity. I am learning each and every day about myself and the world around me and am honored to look up to these individuals as role models.
CP: Since growing up in Skokie and living in Chicago, you’ve always participated in philanthropic ventures. Which groups have you focused on lately?
RK: Most of my time has been spent with my business partner, Stephanie A. Jones, in developing the GeekNerdWonk Charitable Foundation, "Helping Charities Help Themselves". GNW supports smaller, underfunded charities which work in public health education and promotion in underserved, marginalized populations. To be the beneficiary of GNW's support, each charity must be personally vetted for institutional and leadership character by GNW Trustees and/or members of GNW's Board of Directors.
In addition, I have been working with Equality Maryland, GLAAD, HRC, ACLU, LCOA, Womankind Kenya, and the "I talk about HIV/AIDS Because..." Campaign.
CP: You’ll be returning to Chicago in June for Pride. What can we expect?
RK: You can expect the unexpected really, I don't like being predictable - life is too short. I move through life as if it is a game of chess, changing at every move to keep things interesting. One thing is certain, I am going to have an incredible time with my friends as we celebrate and support the work of ChicagoPride.com.
CP: Is there still a certain connection you feel to your home city of Chicago?
RK: Chicago is, has always been, and will always be home.
CP: Alright, we have to talk about your appearance in the upcoming Playgirl. What lead you to bare it all?
RK: I decided to drop my labels for Playgirl because I wanted to make a few statements with regards to American society, nudity, and human vulnerability underneath our clothes. I am a model, but that alone does not define me as a whole, nor does my personal orientation, my gender, my age, my race, or any other defining quality that society uses to put me in a box. The fact of the matter is that life is just not black and white, but still we go through life labeling ourselves and labeling others to make order of the chaos that exists around us. Underneath our designer clothes and the labels we are all the same - beautifully vulnerable.
Oh, and for the record, let's get one thing straight -pun intended [laughing] - Playgirl is not porn. This was not my bold launch into porn-stardom, but rather it was an art project and a social experiment. I would never do anything so pedestrian as to do a nude shoot for the hell of it. There is a method to my madness and a madness to my method as they say. What I really wanted to happen from all of this is simple - I wanted to start a conversation through which we all could learn and grow. Ever since I was a kid my passion was fueled by learning about others, protecting their rights, and inspiring them to love themselves and to follow their dreams. This is the mantra I continue to use as the foundation of business today, tomorrow, and everyday.
If it were not for the support of my family, my friends, Playgirl magazine, and the incredible artistic team that I had in Lope Navo, Rene Garza, Hagen Linss, Sheridan Pennington, Garnet Starborn Budd, and DeMarko Majors this dream shoot would never have materialized. I am forever in their debt and just happy that they trusted and added value to my vision, making it our collective vision, of which we are very proud.
CP: You’ve always surrounded yourself with good friends, so I’m sure you vetted the project through them. Did you have any reservations of posing nude?
RK: Sure, I had some reservations. It took me about three months to come to a 'yes' decision, but at the end of the day I didn't want to look back with regret.
I'm really happy and it was really a fun experience for me because Playgirl immediately saw upon meeting me the artistic vision that I had and what I really wanted to do.
CP: Tell us about the shoot, what can we expect?
RK: You can expect to be pleasantly surprised. I am not alone in this pictorial, that is all I am going to say...
CP: Have you done nude modeling previously?
RK: I suppose I have if you count the work I did on Supermodel, but never anything that was published in such a major way before.
CP: Are you concerned of negative reaction or a backlash?
RK: No, if that were the case I would never leave my house. There is always going to be the chance of negative reaction to anything we do in life. Without risk, there is no reward and I would much rather take a risk, with a chance of failure, than to move through life in fear with the would have - should have - could haves.
CP: As you continue modeling - and as a national sex symbol and active member of the LGBT community - do you feel pressure to remain a good role model?
RK: I do not feel any pressure at all really, I have always been and will continue to simply be me. The best lesson I have ever learned is that you simply cannot please everyone, it is not humanly possible. I think I have a pretty well calibrated moral compass - and if it gets out of whack, I trust that Mom will put in her two cents.
CP: We’re excited about seeing you in June, what else do you have planned this year?
RK: In addition to launching GeekNerdWonk Charitable Foundation, we are developing a new fragrance line and filming a new reality drama series that is in the works. Stay tuned!
Several images from Ronnie Kroell’s shoot for Playgirl have been circulating online. The images included in this interview have been posted on Ronnie’s Facebook page. These images and the more-revealing photos will appear in the June issue of Playgirl and on Playgirl.com.
Ronnie returns to Chicago on Thursday, June 24th for an appearance at the ChicagoPride.com 8th Anniversary Party from 7 p.m. - 9 p.m. at Roscoe’s, 3356 N. Halsted. Ronnie will also host the Cesars Pride Pre-and After-Party on Sunday, June 27th at Cesars on Broadway, 2924 N. Broadway.